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Split vote nixes land use, zoning changes for property

By Staff | Mar 9, 2016

A request for land use and zoning changes for a property located in the 3000 block of Santa Barbara Place was denied in a split vote by City Council at Monday’s meeting, but the owner’s plan to build a duplex on the property likely will be allowed after the city makes changes to its Commercial Activity Center designation.

The request sought a change from CAC to multi-family residential and companion zoning for the 10,000-square-foot site bounded on three sides by like duplex and single-family development. The land use was changed from multi-family to CAC in 2010 when the city made sweeping changes across the city before a statewide vote on Amendment 4.

Councilmember Jim Burch, who said he reviews each case like this on its own merits, moved to approve the requests on the basis of similar development on the block with only four vacant lots still undeveloped.

“It’s almost entirely built out so it makes no sense to change this parcel to commercial,” said Burch. “These owners should be able to count on something. My vote considers how best that area will be served. It’s not fair to make them wait 30 years for commercial development taking over the other properties. This is the right thing to do. Let’s fix it.”

The “fix” will be the city adding flexibility to the CAC designation to allow exceptions for duplex development within the classification.

Councilmember Rana Erbrick, who serves as council’s liaison to Planning & Zoning, which rejected the request, cautioned council on approving the one property as “spot zoning.”

“For as long as I’ve been on council,” Erbrick said, “if there ever was a spot zoning case this is it. P&Z got this one right. This 10,000-square-foot property is not suitable for commercial now as it is. We need to give staff direction to change the land use or we will be creating a bigger problem.”

It was council’s consensus that Santa Barbara Place remain multi-family while the adjacent backyard vacant property fronting on Santa Barbara Boulevard remain for commercial development. City staff was directed to make the appropriate changes to the Comprehensive Plan as soon as possible so that it could be presented to the state for approval this summer.

Mayor Marni Sawicki and Councilmembers Jessica Cosden, Erbrick and Rick Williams cast the dissenting votes. Williams earlier stated he would support the request, but changed his mind in light of the discussions to fix the classification.

Council unanimously approved an ordinance granting a zoning change from multi-family residential to pedestrian commercial for a 50-acre site at the intersection of Del Prado Boulevard and De Navarra Parkway in Northeast Cape.

The parcel will be subdivided to include up to 250,000 square feet of commercial space in a retail center tract, six outparcels and a 10-acre conservation tract. The development known as the Commercial Center at Entrada also received a special exception to allow a limited gas station and convenience store. The property has multiple access points on Del Prado and De Navarra.

Developers also received a two-year extension for its project to complete substantial construction.

Council also approved additional construction of two more observation pads, walkways and Americans with Disabilities Act compliant walkway to the existing observation pad constructed in the past year at Sirenia Vista Park.

A grant from the Lee County Tourist Development Council will cover the nearly $72,000 cost by contract with Bonness Inc. of Naples, which completed the recent improvements.

USA Services of Florida was granted a five-year extension on its contract with the city for street sweeping services at Monday’s meeting. Staff recommended the extension citing a review of the company’s current market competitive bit of nearly $300,000 per year.

While some on council were nervous about the length of the contract extension, City Manager John Szerlag pointed out that the contract can be terminated at any time with a 30-day notice. The contract was signed in 2011 and contained a clause for one five-year renewal.

Council’s next regular meeting is March 14 in Council Chambers at City Hall.